IN THE first week of another year in the new millennium, we are welcomed by the scandalous news of farm workers being shipped from Mindanao to Luzon to work for a Spanish legacy Hacienda under slave conditions.

About a thousand farm hands from Bukidnon, Cotabato, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, and Davao provinces were recruited by a labor service cooperative in partnership with notorious Cojuangco-owned agricultural enterprises based in Tarlac, Northern Luzon. These are the same ruthless corporations owned and controlled by the family of the former president behind the Hacienda Luisita massacre of 2004 that to this day operates and profits from the land that has been awarded by the Supreme Court to the peasants in a 2012 decision.

The workers were promised P450 daily, a hefty amount given that they receive only a third of this wage in their localities. The difference was enough for them to leave their homes and communities in Mindanao and cast their fortunes to the North wind with the promise of better pay from the recruiters.

In a tired but effective scheme that also victimize countless OFWs, domestic helpers, and fellow Filipinos, the farm hands found themselves receiving only measly amounts with some receiving a paltry P9.50 a day with the promise of benefits and other perks promised in the morbidly-named “Tarlac Package” non-existent. They were housed in decrepit common bunkhouses, and forced to work for 13-hour manual labor in the Tarlac sugarcane fields under the watchful eyes of armed guards.

Last December 28, 2016, 42 of them decided to escape from these sordid conditions. They sought help from organized farmers of the Unyon ng mga Manggawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), an affiliate of the Kilusan Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), farmers’ groups that are no strangers to the exploitation and oppression of the Cojuangco-owned agricultural enterprises. They were housed and assisted by DAR before their arrival in Cagayan de Oro en route to their respective communities in Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, and Lanao del Norte. The hundreds of others remain trapped in Hacienda Luisita waiting for their rescue by government and cause-oriented groups.

Our first reaction to all these harrowing tales is one of disbelief over the fact that a century after this nation was born from the tales of resistance against the oppression of foreign-owned haciendas, the same inhumane and exploitative mechanisms that regard human labor like cattle brawn remain present and thriving. Despite the establishment of the Philippine Republic, a government that should have taken as its primary task the protection of the rights of the most oppressed and exploited sectors, such tales remain painfully redundant and replicated a hundred times over in the narratives not just of present-day farm workers, but also of thousands of OFWs and other marginalized sectors.

The thing is - the endurance of such an exploitative system should not actually be that surprising given that the families behind such historical and institutionalized oppression have managed to place their scions in the top echelons of government for generations. One need only to look at the bases of power of the Aquino and Roxas clans, families whose political and economic influence emanate from their vast landholdings made profitable by also the labor of generations of farm workers or sacadas and landless peasants.

It should also be expected that in the so-called modern age, there are aspects of contemporary life that will remain pre-modern and feudal by design. Lenin already spoke of the stunting effects of imperialism on native economies. This same point is given contemporary credence by Marxist geographer David Harvey when he wrote about the enduring process of the stage of primitive accumulation through present-day processes of accumulation by dispossession. Some nations and populations shall bear the brunt of capital’s last push towards the last frontiers. The entry of mining and agricultural plantations into virgin forests and indigenous territory are just but some of the features of the penetrating logic of capital dividing the world into neocolonies and their economic principals.

However, the continuous exploitation of labor as showcased by the trafficked sacada farmers of Northern Mindanao, provides an illumination on the primary modus of the process of accumulation. At the core, profits that benefit the oppressing and exploiting classes are not conjured out of thin air but are actually generated from the oppression and exploitation of the suffering classes.

It is a political economic dictum that runs parallel to the law of the conservation of energy in physics. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed; it can only be reshaped into another form. Using the same logic, the profits of the ruling classes are not created out of nowhere but are produced from the brawn and sweat of the likes of the northern Mindanao sacada and similar working classes.